Friday, November 18, 2011

Travel TidBits: Streets of India

This week, the New York columnist Thomas L. Friedman wrote an article reflecting on his recent visit to India.  Visiting the town of Jodhpur, his guide pointed to the traffic light and noted “It’s the only stoplight in Jodhur, a city with 1.2 million people!”  Friedman must have experienced the same amazing picture on the streets of every city we visited: utter chaos and yet albeit slow people manage to get to their destination.

Madness on the streets of India

We are in Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, a city of more than 5-6 million people.  As in the other cities, we are mainly staying in the old city with its narrow alleys around the City Palace and the Govind Devij Temple.  By now we should be accustomed to the chaotic traffic picture on India’s roads – but it continues to amaze us that traffic doesn’t come to a complete stand-still.  Like a river meandering around obstacles, Indian drivers just adjust, crawl forward in a flow of humanity and steel.

Tonight we visited a vegetable market and attended the prayer service at the Hindu Temple.  After night fall returning to the main road and waiting for Lucky, our driver, we observed the street life and more specifically the absolutely dense traffic – unimaginable for us Westerners.  The 2 lane thorough fare road is packed with pushcarts under man power, bicycles rickshaws, bicycles stacked high with goods almost swallowing the poor driver, motor rickshaws, motorbikes, cars, trucks, an occasional horse-drawn cart or maybe a camel cart, and of course the pedestrians weaving thorough the traffic to get from one side to the other.   It is not uncommon to see a holy cow leisurely crossing the street and all traffic just flows around them!  We were waiting on a busy intersection where traffic lights that were mostly observed.  “Traffic lights and lanes painted on the roads are mere suggestions” our guide had explained earlier!  The images that follow show impressions from this absolute street madness during the day as well as into the night so typical for city traffic and that we had previous marveled at New Delhi.

[My apologies for the less crisp images – but I had to share this spectacle which we encountered many times.]

The bus just stops in the middle of the street and people rush through traffic to catch it.

Finally, Lucky arrived and we hopped into the car only to advance at a snail’s pace.  The inner city streets are packed also with pedestrians doing their evening shopping on their way home. 

A rare moment of just one rickshaw driver on the street – amazing.

We passed by a stage at a round-about with a street performance of a belly dancer on a platform above the traffic which of course added to the further distraction and congestion. Add to that pedestrians weaving between lanes to get to the performance…. And amazingly no one gets upset about it besides the honking of horns that is common practice to make sure the others know you are coming.  It seems to take us a long time just to go a short distance, yet our driver is as calm as could be as he drops us at our hotel, a welcoming oasis after the madness on the streets.

Til next time,

To see all of the workshops and photo travel opportunities 
offered by M. Raeder - Photography, please click here.
Join me for the next great outing to photograph the elephant seals and 
their newborn pups in January 2012!